SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Toyota Motor Corp. revealed on Wednesday that it may take a step back from engineering automobiles to revive the slot car racing craze that swept the 1970s and 1980s, signaling a radical shift in its business model. Toyota has been ordered to pay a landmark $1.2 billion to conclude the Justice Department’s criminal probe into safety issues that began in 2009. Toyota executives expressed disappointment with the ruling, but said they hope to recover some of their losses with the release of a new toy called “Prius Pedal Force Robot Happy Lightning DRIVE!”
Attorney General Eric Holder announced the fine on Wednesday, saying that Toyota “intentionally concealed information” and misled the public about known “sudden-acceleration” issues, going so far as to blame the accidents on inattentive drivers and sticky floor mats. In December 2010, Toyota shelled out $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a California Highway Patrol officer who was slain by a runaway Prius.
At that time, Toyota had issued a series of unprecedented safety and quality recalls over a 14-month period, all involving sudden-acceleration problems with their popular hybrid vehicles. But the Justice Department continued to attack Toyota at this morning’s press conference for “shameful behavior” in treating the matter as a public relations problem rather than a manufacturing defect.
“Two things were made clear by the Justice Department’s ruling,” a senior executive for Toyota said. “We were a lot better at making cars in the 1980s and we shouldn’t be experimenting with electric toys on such a large, dangerous scale. But we believe ‘Prius Pedal Force Robot Happy Lightning DRIVE!’ presents a win-win scenario. It has all the danger and uncertainty of navigating a Prius at high speeds through traffic, but without the hospital bills. We also feel that re-introducing a retro pastime will resonate with today’s hipster community, perhaps netting us more profits than we saw from real hybrid vehicles.”
The toy, modeled in the fashion of vintage slot car racing games, features two to four miniature Prius vehicles and a set of tracks that kids can put together to create a variety of different racing environments. As with traditional slot car toys, the Toyotas run on electricity, are powered by handheld triggers and drive in a grooved surface along a plastic track.
“The real fun,” said Toyota’s marketing department, “is in the unpredictability of the cars. Slot car racing requires controlling speed around curves and tight corners. The only real way to lose the game is to fly off the tracks, so once a child masters the system, there’s no real challenge left. But with our game, the cars are programmed to suddenly accelerate at random intervals. And once they do, it’s virtually impossible to stop them without special assistance. It’s just this kind of innovation and creativity that will renew interest in the slot car racing genre of toys...and in Toyota Motors.”
Toyota expects its first foray into the toy industry to yield high margins and wildly successful sales figures, with virtually no threat of lawsuits or criminal investigations. The “Prius Pedal Force Robot Happy Lightning DRIVE!” kits will available in major retailers across the country by the start of summer.
2014. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.